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February 2004

Gun Carrying and Conduct Disorder: A Highly Combustible Combination?Implications for Juvenile Justice and Mental and Public Health

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa (Drs Loeber and Burke), and The University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill (Dr Lahey). Mr Mutchka is in private practice in Pittsburgh.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(2):138-145. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.2.138

Objectives  To examine concealed gun carrying between the ages of 12 and 17 years in a population of clinic-referred boys, many of whom qualified for a disruptive behavior disorder, including conduct disorder (CD); to identify factors and diagnoses related to concealed gun carrying; and to examine the extent to which gun carrying is associated with crime in adulthood.

Design  Longitudinal follow-up study.

Setting  Pittsburgh, Pa, and Athens and Atlanta, Ga.

Participants  One hundred seventy-seven clinic-referred boys, first assessed between the ages of 7 and 12 years and followed up yearly until the age of 19 years.

Main Outcome Measures  Violence, property offenses, and drug charges in adulthood.

Results  Between the ages of 12 and 17 years, 1 in 5 participants carried a concealed gun, and the annual prevalence increased linearly with age. More than half (61.1%) carried a gun for 1 year only. Gun carrying was significantly (incident rate ratio, 3.93%; 95% confidence interval, 1.60-9.60) associated with CD. Conduct disorder, maternal psychopathy, victimization, and parental monitoring increased the risk of gun carrying by a factor of 8. Adult crime was best predicted by gun carrying, CD, and parental monitoring. Gun carrying predicted drug charges, but not violence or property offenses.

Conclusions  Even though the carrying of handguns by juveniles is prohibited, young men with symptoms of CD are more likely to carry guns than young men without CD. The findings are discussed in terms of the need for the inclusion of gun carrying among the symptoms of CD.